Toffee is my spirit animal. So, when I hear someone say that toffee is pretty much the same as caramel? Pffffttt (*shudders). Oh no they didn’t! Traditional toffee is basically butter and sugar simmered over a long period of time. You are pretty much carefully burning sugar to achieve that rich, molasses-like taste. Caramel usually has milk or cream added to it and has a chewy, much softer texture. Toffee is harder, much like a candy-brittle. If you should know, my candy-making game was strong… once upon a time. But this little recipe gave me a run for my money.
It took three tries to get to a bar that was:
- Gluten, dairy & refined sugar free
- Was easy to slice, yet still crunchy and creamy and chewy (the 3 C’s)
- Had a fridge life of at least 5-7 days
In the past, I used to make all these great-tasting bars with condensed milk; a baker’s all-time secret weapon. Picture this super curious girl with bright red hair and the biggest passion for books and baking. Not much has changed except for the ingredients I now use to bake (and my hair color, of course!). For those who wonder why condensed milk tastes so freaking good; well friends; condensed milk is milk where ALL the water has been removed and replaced with sugar. That’s why it tastes so darn good (and at the same time, why it’s so bad for you).
My first attempt at these epic toffee bars involved replacing condensed milk with my homemade caramel-style dulce de leche; made entirely from coconut milk & organic coconut sugar poured over a mix of puffed quinoa, pretzels bits, & organic corn flakes. I can share with you that it was a total kitchen fail. I was so excited to try them in the morning after they spent the night in the fridge. Except for the fact, I couldn’t cut them. Even after they thawed, those bars had some serious tooth-knocking potential. Crunchy bits were flying at my face as I put the entire weight of my body onto the chef knife I usually use to slice through squash. I was about to go grab some goggles or protective eyewear. Bits of flying toffee. Everywhere. No joke, you guys. No joke.
The second attempt involved removing the pretzel bits in favor of puffed brown rice. That didn’t go too well. And then, a breakthrough. I remembered my Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cups and that amazing crunchy, chewy base that they have. Made possible thanks to medjool dates, all-natural peanut butter & crunchy roasted almond bits. So I decided to play with hazelnut butter or almond butter, lucuma, agave nectar, certified gluten-free oats, & raw cacao nibs. One thing in particular gives sweets this amazing, strong caramel-like taste. Meet Lucuma. Lucuma powder is made from a super nourishing mango-like fruit the Incas discovered way back when. Clearly, those guys were onto something. When you warm it up it distills this nice caramel-like flavor. When you mix lucuma with coconut nectar or agave nectar & nut butter; you have the base for an instant-caramel source that is 100% ALL natural & refined sugar free.
And as with every attempt, I topped with a layer of dairy-free melted chocolate chips mixed with a pinch of coconut oil. And then you stick the pan in your refrigerator so that everything can set in nicely. And then you share it with those you really care about. These bars are too good to share with someone you don’t really like. Just saying.
No-Bake Vegan Toffee Bars
- 1 cup of dry, old-fashioned rolled oats (GF)
- 3/4 cups of roasted pecans
- 1/4 cup of agave or coconut nectar (for sweeter palates, try 1/3 cup, instead)
- 2 tbsp of lucuma powder
- 1/3 cup of raw cacao nibs
- 1/2 cup of slightly melty almond butter or hazelnut butter*
- 1/2 cup of organic toffee bits (optional*adding these will no longer make it dairy free as they’re often made from milk chocolate)
Notes: the mixture of agave nectar, lucuma and almond butter really tastes very close to toffee.
The raw cacao nibs pack a crunch like no other. Since they’re a bit bitter, the agave or coconut nectar balance them out beautifully. If you want the bars to have a stronger toffee taste and you’re not intolerant to dairy, I suggest you add the 1/2 cup of organic toffee bits.
- 1 plus 1/4 cups of dairy free chocolate chips
- 1 tbsp of coconut oil
- In a large bowl, throw all the base ingredients, except for the almond or hazelnut butter & the lucuma. I usually use a wooden spoon or clean hands. I mix the melty nut butter with the lucuma powder and then pour over the bowl with the base ingredients. Mix well.
- Press the mixture down on a 9 inch square cake pan lined with parchment paper so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Then wet your hands a bit (to prevent the mixture from sticking to you) and push down to even out the surface across the cake pan. Cover with aluminum foil & place it inside your fridge right away.
- Melt the chocolate chips & coconut oil over low heat or in a microwaveable bowl. Use a spatula to pour over the cake pan with the base and even out the chocolate over the bars. I then refrigerate them for at least 2-3 hours, so everything sets together perfectly.
These are a great make-ahead dessert, perfect for any holiday party, office potluck or just a little weekend treat!
By: Aleyda| The Dish On Healthy